The only way to survive winter is to get out in it. We got hammered with snow the day after Christmas; Debbie and I had the wisdom to drive back from my father’s place Christmas night so we wouldn’t get stuck on the hellhole that Route 95 can be during a snowstorm. The day of the storm, winds were high, and you really couldn’t go out in it (except to cross the street for a neighbor’s party – everyone showed up on foot and we had a great time).
The next afternoon, after we dug out, I headed down the street to a neighbor’s place to cross-country ski. It is one of my favorite things, and I’m lucky enough to have a friend who has a large parcel of land in conservation trust, and is happy to let me ski there. There are horse trails through it, but this time of year, the only people who get very far into the woods are me and another neighbor, Bonnie, who use the trails for skiing.
You could tell the storm had been fierce – the northeast side of the trees were covered in snow, and the southwest side were untouched, standing black against the white background. Depending on which way you looked, one view was a negative impression of the other. I had to make tracks most of the way, and the branches of beech and maple saplings were bowed over across the trail from either side much of the way. At first, I couldn’t understand why they were all headed down into the trail, rather than all leaning the same direction, but then it occurred to me that the trees had more room to grow in the trail opening, so there many more branches on the trailside of the tree. The snow was two or three inches deep on even the slightest branch, and many bowed all the way to the ground. I felt like King Arthur as I passed down the trail. I would touch a slender trunk with my wand (er, ski pole), the snow shook off it and the tree sprung back up in the air, ready to continue its knightly quest of being a tree.
One thing I love about being out in the winter is seeing the contours of the land – there are little hillocks and low lying wetlands, rock outcroppings and eskers that you don’t see when the trees are bearing leaves. There are some tracks – deer, coyote, rabbit, maybe a fox – but there is mostly the sense that everything is resting for just a short while. When I’m out there, I get the feeling I really can see where I live.
And then, my mind calms down too. The combination of movement and quiet is pretty rare, and I need both of them to calm down – it’s my brain chemistry, I guess. Meditation works, too – or maybe this is just another form of meditation.
I went out again yesterday – the snow is melting and the ground is showing through where I’ve already made tracks. It’s the slushy stuff that can get you down.
So I’m hoping for another four or five inches.